Michael's Dispatches

Calling BULLSHIT on Rolling Stone

244 Comments

29 March 2011

Seldom do I waste time with rebutting articles, and especially not from publications like Rolling Stone.  Today, numerous people sent links to the latest Rolling Stone tripe.  The story is titled “THE KILL TEAM, THE FULL STORY.”  It should be titled: “BULLSHIT, from Rolling Stone.”

The story—not really an “article”—covers Soldiers from 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) in Afghanistan.  A handful of Soldiers were accused of murder.  It does in fact appear that a tiny group of rogues committed premeditated murder.  I was embedded with the 5/2 SBCT and was afforded incredible access to the brigade by the Commander, Colonel Harry Tunnell, and the brigade Command Sergeant Major, Robb Prosser.  I know Robb from Iraq.  Colonel Tunnell had been shot in Iraq.

The brigade gave me open access.  I could go anywhere, anytime, so long as I could find a ride, which never was a problem beyond normal combat problems.  If they had something to hide, it was limited and I didn’t find it.  I was not with the Soldiers accused of murder and had no knowledge of this.  It is important to note that the murder allegations were not discovered by media vigilance, but by, for instance, at least one Soldier in that tiny unit who was appalled by the behavior.  A brigade is a big place with thousands of Soldiers, and in Afghanistan they were spread thinly across several provinces because we decided to wage war with too few troops.  Those Soldiers accused of being involved in (or who should have been knowledgeable of) the murders could fit into a minivan.  You would need ten 747s for the rest of the Brigade who did their duty.  I was with many other Soldiers from 5/2 SBCT.  My overall impression was very positive.  After scratching my memory for negative impressions from 5/2 Soldiers, I can’t think of any, actually, other than the tiny Kill Team who, to my knowledge, I never set eyes upon.

The online edition of the Rolling Stone story contains a section with a video called “Motorcycle Kill,” which includes our Soldiers gunning down Taliban who were speeding on a motorcycle toward our guys.  These Soldiers were also with 5/2 SBCT, far away from the “Kill Team” later accused of the murders.  Rolling Stone commits a literary “crime” by deceptively entwining this normal combat video with the Kill Team story.  The Taliban on the motorcycle were killed during an intense operation in the Arghandab near Kandahar City.  People who have been to the Arghandab realize the extreme danger there.  The Soviets got beaten horribly in the Arghandab, despite throwing everything including the Soviet kitchen sink into the battle that lasted over a month.  Others fared little better.  To my knowledge, 5/2 and supporting units were the first ever to take Arghandab, and these two dead Taliban were part of that process.

The killing of the armed Taliban on the motorcycle was legal and within the rules of engagement.  Law and ROE are related but separate matters.  In any case, the killing was well within both the law and ROE.  The Taliban on the back of the motorcycle raised his rifle to fire at our Soldiers but the rifle did not fire.  I talked at length with several of the Soldiers who were there and they gave me the video.  There was nothing to hide.  I didn’t even know about the story until they told me.  It can be good for Soldiers to shoot and share videos because it provides instant replay and lessons learned.  When they gave me the video and further explained what happened, I found the combat so normal that I didn’t even bother publishing it, though I should have because that little shooting of the two Taliban was the least of the accomplishments of these Soldiers, and it rid the Arghandab of two Taliban.

Some people commented that our Soldiers used excessive force by firing too many bullets.  Hogwash.  And besides, they were trying to kill each other.  Anyone who has seen much combat with our weak M-4 rifles realizes that one shot is generally not enough, and the Taliban were speeding at them on a motorbike, which very often are prepared as suicide bombs.  If that motorcycle had been a bomb, as they often are, and got inside the group of Soldiers and exploded, they could all have been killed.  Just yesterday, in Paktika, three suicide attackers came in, guns blazing, and detonated a huge truck bomb.  Depending on which reports you read, about twenty workers were killed and about another fifty wounded.

In the video, our guys would have been justified in firing twice that many bullets, but at some point you are wasting ammo and that is a combat sin.  The Soldiers involved in that shooting told me that the Taliban on the back may have pulled the AK trigger, but the loaded AK did not fire because the Taliban didn’t have a round in the chamber.  Attention to detail.  At least one also had an ammunition rack strapped across his chest.

This could go on for pages, but Rolling Stone is not worth it, and thrashing them might only build their readership.  I’ve found in the past that boycotts work.  I led a boycott against one magazine and it went bankrupt.  It’s doubtful that Rolling Stone will go bankrupt for its sins, but you can cost them money not by boycotting their magazine, but by boycotting their advertisers.  That hurts.  Just pick an advertiser whose products you already buy, boycott it, and tell the advertiser why you are not buying their product.

Now I’ve got to get back to work.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    kansas · 10 years ago
    Can someone post a list of advertisers. Not gonna buy a copy.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tyler · 10 years ago
    Kansas - look at my post above regarding boycotting Garnier (contact details there, etc), but also notifying them that advertising here is bad business for them.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    retsoldier · 10 years ago
    Would like to see more advertisers posted to hit RS in the wallet.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Daniel · 10 years ago
    When I was in Afghanistan in 2006-2007 we had the same thing happen as we were leaving sangin to head back towards Gereshk and then our FOB Tombstone. So I know what that is like. Keep up the good work.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon · 10 years ago
    [quote name="retsoldier"]Would like to see more advertisers posted to hit RS in the wallet.[/quote]

    I've got to go offline -- but if there be a complete online list of RS advertisers (I did not see one), I will publish it separately and ask others to republish. If you find a link, please publish it here and I will check back in about eight hours.

    Thank you
  • This commment is unpublished.
    LT · 10 years ago
    Just emailed Jim Beam at http://www.jimbeam.com/global_pages/contact_us

    it was easy and took less than a minute. Thanks JJ
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bill Treadway · 10 years ago
    "Some people commented that our Soldiers used excessive force by firing too many bullets.'

    The degree of gall of *internet commenters* deciding what number of rounds these seasoned grunts should fire at a couple Taliban with an AK bearing down on them is absolutely staggering.

    Really very straightforward: When your magazine is empty and it was your last or when they ain't moving... as in breathing whichever occurs first.

    You bubblebutts who presume to kibitz on subjects on which you are gloriously ignorant from your flippin couch are clear proof that the gene pool is way to shallow.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    dghealy · 10 years ago
    Many of you think, "Oh, I am so happy that they will see how we are prosecuting these people!" Well Ive got news for you.
    The Afghans don't believe it. Damage done. Period.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Roger · 10 years ago
    Saw this RS article and was worried but you have shed the proper light on the larger picture. I am forwarding this to many people who never dig deep enough to find out the whole story. GREAT JOB
  • This commment is unpublished.
    gherman · 10 years ago
    Hey Havechek ... Haven't you heard, "The truth shall set you free" ... but first it may p!ss you off !!

    Or how about this little bit of truth from another great American, "Liberalism is a Mental Disorder" :-)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Roger · 10 years ago
    [quote name="LT"]Just emailed Jim Beam at http://www.jimbeam.com/global_pages/contact_us

    it was easy and took less than a minute. Thanks JJ[/quote]

    Tried that link and got this:
    http://www.centurycouncil.org/ an anti-drinking site (gahhhh!)
    But will see if there is some work around.
    Thanks
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Roger · 10 years ago
    My mistake, didn't realize they were 'carding' me to just see the darn site.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    mountaingirl · 10 years ago
    Great job! I'm really grateful we have you to elucidate issues like this. Keep bringing it to them!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mark Behnke · 10 years ago
    I am consistently amazed at the breadth of Michael Yon's contacts, knowledge, etc.

    If there is a better war reporter...ever...I'd love to know who it is.

    Go get 'em Mike!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon · 10 years ago
    I've led a boycott that bankrupted a magazine back in 2006. It can be done and I know how to do it. If folks really want to beat Rolling Stone back into a corner, I will lead the way.

    See this: http://www.punditreview.com/2006/12/early-christmas-present-for-michael-yon-shock-mag-folds-after-8-issues/
  • This commment is unpublished.
    gherman · 10 years ago
    Thx for the link to Jim Beam. Corp will hear our outrage.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MaryIndiana · 10 years ago
    Jim Beam
    T Mobil
    Samsung
    Garnier Fructis
    Shop Top Belgian Wheat
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MSO · 10 years ago
    We have seen this deliberate attempt to erode public confidence in our men and women in the military before.
    Veterans suffering from PTSD, suicide, homelessness and blood on their lips. Viet Nam veterans faced overwhelming disapproval both in combat and upon their return home.
    Google John Kerry and the Winter Soldier for an eye opener.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Paul Hausser · 10 years ago
    It is long overdue for the US to reject what the whole Nuremberg show trial claimed happened vis a vi Germany and how it conducted military operations.

    The USSR never signed or operated under the Geneva Conventions.

    Try fighting that war against a Soviet army of millions of Asian mongrels under no rules and then after losing(because the US and England saved the USSR) to be hauled in front of a kangaroo court in one of your own cities and be told how bad and evil you are

    Total BS.

    The victory of Stalin and the USSR was a major tragedy for Western culture and Europe
  • This commment is unpublished.
    timb · 10 years ago
    Hold on! You, Michael Yon, fluffer of the military have called bullsh*t on an investigation? Wow, what a shock. Seems there are a lot of "rogue" enlisted men in the Army and all the officers are as pure as the driven snow.

    I call bullsh*t on your "career" of stealing the money of angry right wingers who believe you document our Holy Wars against Muslims. What a sad career it has been
  • This commment is unpublished.
    timb · 10 years ago
    Seriously?? this story is about the dereliction of command of NCO's and Lts and captains and how those men were promoted DESPITE what their soldiers did and you criticize a picture accompanying the story.

    I have a forest outside my house, Mike, care to come and tell about it by looking at one tree?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    R. McTaggart · 10 years ago
    I noticed Jim Beam advertises with Rolling Stone so I will never buy their products again, and they now know it!

    http://www.jimbeam.com/contact-us

    Thank you Mr. Yon for your commentary and your service!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Brandy · 10 years ago
    Thank you Mr. Yon! When I watched the video this morning I kept scratching my head, wondering why they were making such a big deal about that video. Even the discussions amongst the soldiers after the shooting sounded appropriate as they were talking about the event. I didn't hear anything inappropriate.

    Will do what I can to help with the boycott. I was receiving RS for a while even though I never ordered it and had to call a few times to get the rag canceled.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    russki top · 10 years ago
    Rolling Stone could have reported on the Kill Team; instead they took the yellow rag way out and confused a correct action with illegal and uncondoned activity. read it slowly, get straight on why this was wrong, then try again. Rolling Stone can cover the Kill Team till they're tired of it, but don't confuse the rest of the unit's actions in country with one small group's criminal behavior.
    Jack@$$.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    russki top · 10 years ago
    ....really good job staying on track with the story at hand, dude. "mongrels, huh?" No hidden stormwatch agenda there or anything......
    Go spew elsewhere.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    russki top · 10 years ago
    And the story about criminals has NOTHING to do with the video window dressing RS chose to put on the page with it. If you can't separate the two and deal with them independently, your judgment is clouded beyond repair, and you should just suck down another Ambien and go back to sleep in the head-down position you took in the sand. He's not defending the criminals. He's objecting to broad-brush condemnation where none is warranted.
    Figure it out.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    jason hughes · 10 years ago
    Hey mike, you were embedded with my unit. You saw us everyday and what we were and weren't about. You reported the truth. Thanks from all of us man.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    jfm · 10 years ago
    How can you dispute the entire article as BS when you admit you never met the accused soldiers? You dissect one part of the article and then claim the entire article is BS. If the article is BS why are those soldiers that committed murder going to prison? Why did the army investigate in the first place? The worst part is the mindless commentators on your blog. For all of you complaining about the article but who haven't read it, try thinking for yourself.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    T Dharma · 10 years ago
    The article referred to in this blog was quite intense...the 'motorcycle kill' video did not appear to have relevance to the story, so I didn't bother to watch it. But, don't discount the story because of that video. Just like any institution, there are good seeds and bad seeds...this article did not appear to attempt to bias the reader against the war or our servicemen and women... It was what appeared to be a well-researched story about a few people within a unit in Afghanistan. One of the guys just got 24 years in prison. I would suggest that before any one goes and boycotts the advertisers on RS at least read the article.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Scott Likely · 10 years ago
    Probably a bad idea for RS to put the video along side the trophy photos, since it is from a different group of soldiers. It really should be part of a separate story about the fog of war and the decisions that have to be made in a war zone. The video is too grainy and shot from an angle that doesn't show the weapon or weapons the guys on the motorcycle had. It would get different treatment if it did. It would be good if there was some confirmation from locals that those guys were Taliban.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Scott Likely · 10 years ago
    I don't see the point of a boycott, though. The article is about a group of rogue soldiers that committed crimes. Nothing wrong with reporting on that.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jake · 10 years ago
    Yeah, i dont think any of these get read, but i went ahead and sent this link on to some other sites hoping that it might better inform the public of some of the distinct points you have made. thanks for the support of the truth be it popular or unpopular.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Paul · 10 years ago
    i honestly don't. However, I do believe that you believe what you've written. That's a real shame.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    garpin · 10 years ago
    Why our defense department would allow a journalist from a meaningless drivel filled magazine that reports on the music industry to embed with our HEROES; is beyond me.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Alex Chaney · 10 years ago
    I saw the motorcycle video via a link from another site and immediately thought that it was BS putting that up and associating it with the kill team. Definitely poor journalism and gives the impression that the RS is trying to use the kill team as a basis to smear a larger group. I think we have seen that played out before.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Priss · 10 years ago
    As if the garbage they emblazon the cover of the magazine wasn't enough to keep me away, it appears that it's one of those occasions where the cover indicates how much trash is inside as well.

    It's good for people who don't like to think for themselves though, isn't it?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kirk A. Linn · 10 years ago
    Rolling Stone should stick with critiquing music. It's about the only thing they get right. Their socio-political commentary is just to the left of Mao Tse Tung.

    I wouldn't give validation to anything they write about warfare, since the magazine is run by a bunch of ageist hippies whose ideas of the world are still stuck in the 60's.

    I can hardly wait to see what they write to try to justify Obama's war in Libya, (entered into without Congress' consent I might add) all the while ignoring other hot spots in the world where governments are "killing their own" (e.g. Iran China, NK et. al).
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dori · 10 years ago
    I just want balance in reporting...war is war and I would imagine it's not easy being over there; being shot at; not knowing who to trust when even little kids can carry bombs. All the armchair quarterbacking is easy when you're sitting safe and sound and comfortable in the U.S.A. because those soldiers are ensuring our freedom. Not defending the abusing soldiers, just saying I want balance.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    GM Roper · 10 years ago
    Mr. Yon, as one of your long time readers, thanks for putting paid to the rascals at Rolling Stone. Thanks
  • This commment is unpublished.
    JR · 10 years ago
    I think the point here is that they were boasting about taking the video. There was definitely a blood sport sort of attitude you could hear and see in the video. And the video shouldn't have been shared even if the ROE were followed. In your article you seem awfully certain that these were armed Taliban, but that may or may not be true. In the end Rolling Stone already has a ton of points for the McChrystal interview, no boycott has a chance in hell of hurting them.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Shukri · 10 years ago
    The crime the soldier was convicted of was deliberately killing a 15-year old boy in front of his father and then planting weapons to imply that he was an insurgent.

    Reading through the comments, I see that a lot are military folks and families who do not want to condemn one of their own. At the same time, these guys in the unit were convicted of murder and we should be people of principle and condemn murder no matter who the perpetrator(s) happens to be.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Judy Daggett · 10 years ago
    Rolling Stone Magazine is pulling the old 'Britney Spears' routine; which is, the badder you are, the more shameful you act, the more you get noticed. People and organizations do this when they lack brains and credibility. So....... most people know that Rolling Stone Mag is a worthless magazine.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Large Sarge · 10 years ago
    thx for the Beam link. I posted this on their site:
    Concerning the recent article, filled with distortions and outright lies, in Rolling Stone magazine about our troops in the Stryker Brigade in Afghanistan. I realize that you have no control over what that magazine chooses to publish, but you certainly do have control over where you place your advertising dollars, and accordingly, I have control over what brands of alcohol I purchase. I have been your customer for over 40 years, but will no longer continue that practice so long as you do business with Rolling Stone. They are a disgrace to our country, our soldiers, and your fine product, but I cannot continue to support you, if you continue to support RS. Thanks you for allowing me to express my opinion. Your move.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Peggy Pollen · 10 years ago
    Thank you so much for this and all your articles. I guess I'll have to scan a Rolling Stone at the store so I can see whom I have to boycott. My husband and I really appreciate your news releases. I myself gave up on the news media a long time ago. How's the book coming? I can't wait to get ours.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Norman Rogers · 10 years ago
    You CANNOT explain the context of combat to the fringe left of American society. Everything MUST be fair. These are the people telling us that kids shouldn't keep score during soccer games so that no one gets their feelings hurt.

    Ours is a military that punishes soldiers that do the wrong thing. That's what makes it a disciplined, well-trained fighting force. Your garden variety African or Middle Eastern military wouldn't bother filling out forms for such things. The US military has lawyers, due process, and severe punishment for anyone caught, tried, and convicted of a crime. Why can't anyone point that out BEFORE they tear into a unit, as Mr. Yon says, that is full of thousands of good soldiers?

    Kudos for speaking up.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    sgi · 10 years ago
    Michael Yon's article is an objection to the sensational video of the motorcycle incident and it's inclusion in the article about the soldiers convicted of deliberately killing Afghan civilians. They are two separate incidents. One was a crime and the other was not.

    But this is what Rolling Stone intended to do and if you are a typical Rolling Stone reader, then that is what they have accomplished.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jimmy · 10 years ago
    RS is a music magazine and their reporting clearly displays they are out of their lane. Remember, this article is coming from a magazine who prides themselves by placing "Snookie" from Jersey Shore on their cover. Their lack of credibility speaks for themselves. Hopefully this horrible reporting should result in a ban from the military and a boycott on their product. Not collecting a paycheck can result in a stinging impact.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jimmy · 10 years ago
    Their insinuations are that of those who imply that all Muslims are radicals and terrorists. This is no different when implying that all Soldiers or other Soldiers are killers and murders. Separate the wheat from the chaff, do not implicate. I have no need to take sides, only encourage unbiased reporting, and not reporting to sell magazines. If so, then they should change their name to "National Inquirer."
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Morning Calm reader · 10 years ago
    Thanks Michael!

    I believe that anyone who truly knows the situation was never and will never be swayed by the likes of RS and their brand of advertising, I mean story telling, I mean reporting.

    They preach to their own and no one needs that group on our side.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tommy Barrios · 10 years ago
    I call for a boycott of ALL MEGA-GLOMERATE MAINSTREAM MEDIA. PRINT, BROADCAST, and WEB.

    They lie and defame our nation and our troops worse than the Rolling Turd ON A DAILY BASIS!

    Don't stop with the Rolling Turd!

    BOYCOTT THEM ALL :lol:

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